This blog contains regular postings relating to the Traditional Latin Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It includes regular commentary on the saints days and the liturgical cycle, with brief background and extracts from the liturgy both in Latin and English. Much of the material has been extracted from the 'St Andrew's Daily Missal', Dom Gueranger's 'Liturgical Year', or similar sources.

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Sunday 21 October 2018

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

As we have seen, the breviary lessons throughout October are taken from the Book of Machabees.

Judas Machabeus had heard very great things of the power of Rome, of far-off countries brought to subjection and many kings compelled to pay yearly tribute; and on the other hand, of the willingness of the Roman people to accede to requests made to them, and of their readiness to swear friendship with any nation that approached them for the purpose. Judas, therefore, decided to take the step of sending messengers to Rome itself, to seek the friendship and alliance of its people. This request was received favourably by the Senate, who later twice renewed the treaty of peace, first with Jonathas and then with Simon, who had succeeded their brother Judas Machabeus as a ruler. Soon however, the little kingdom was torn by civil war, brothers in hostile camps disputing the power between them. One of these thought fit to summon the Romans to his assistance; the invitation was accepted, and in 63 B.C. Pompey took Jerusalem.

It must be remembered that Rome never gave back what it had taken by force of arms. Palestine became and remained a Roman colony, the Senate appointing Herod, king of the Jews. This ruler, by way of pleasing the Jews richly rebuilt and enlarged the Temple at Jerusalem, and it was into this third Temple that our divine Lord made His triumphal entry later on.

From the moment of this conquest the Chosen People had to pay tribute to Rome, a fact which is alluded to in to-day's Gospel. This incident marks one of the last days of our Lord's life, and it was an occasion when the Master, in an answer full of heavenly wisdom, put to confusion His enemies, who from then on, were more than ever bent upon His destruction.

The necessity of paying tribute to Caesar was all the more odious to the Jews, since it went quite contrary to their instinct for universal supremacy, the promise of which Israel believed it had received. It followed that anyone who maintained the duty of payment had public opinion against him, while those who held the opposite view incurred the anger of the Roman authority in possession, and of those among the Jews who approved it and who formed the party of the Herodians. When therefore, the Pharisees thought to drive our Lord on to one or the other of the horns of this dilemma, it was in order to embroil Him either with the people or with the Roman power; on one count or the other they thought they could secure His arrest.

The better to attain their end, they sent Him a deputation of Jews consisting of members of both parties, of "their disciples with the Herodians", as St. Matthew puts it. To get an answer to their question, these men began by telling our Lord that they knew that He "taught the way of God in truth" without "regarding the person of men". And then they laid their snare before Him. "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing the malice that was in them, answers: "Why do ye tempt me, ye hypocrites?" And then, evading their attack with the greatest skill, He bade them show Him "the coin of the tribute" to force them, as He always did on these occasions, to answer their own question.

For when the Jews had offered him "a penny" of this money, He asks them: "Whose image and inscription is this?" They say to Him: "Caesar's." As a matter of fact, before the tribute could be paid it was a necessary preliminary to change the money of the country for coins bearing the image of the emperor; and since a coin is only of value in the country of the monarch whose image it bears, by this very exchange the Jews acknowledged that they were under Caesar's rule, and that they intended to pay tribute to him. "Render therefore to Caesar," says our Lord, "the things that are Caesar's", and then suddenly becoming the Judge of His hearers, He adds: "And to God the things that are God's", which means that since the soul of a man belongs to God who made it in His image, all the faculties ought to return to Him, in the sense of paying the tribute of their worship and service.

"We," says St. Augustine, "are the coins of God stamped with His image, and God demands the return of His coins as Caesar did the return of his." And St. Jerome adds: "Let us give to Caesar the money which bears his inscription, since we cannot do otherwise, but let us give ourselves freely and of our own accord to God, for what our soul bears is the glorious imprint of the face of a God and not the more or less majestic head of an emperor." Bossuet says: "This image will one day pass again through the hands and before the eyes of Jesus Christ, and some day He will look at us and say: 'Whose image and inscription is this?' And the very depth of our being will answer: 'God's'." "It is for Him that we were made and we must bear His stamp upon us. It had to be restored in baptism of which it is the effect and character. But what has become of the divine features which we ought to bear? Christian soul, may God's image be in your reason! But this you have drowned in drunkenness ; you have sunk it in the love of pleasure; you have surrendered it to ambition ; you have made it the slave of gold, which is a form of idolatry; you have sacrificed it to your appetites of which you have made a god; you have made of it an idol of vain glory, and instead of praising and blessing God day and night, it is itself constantly praised and admired."

And the divine Redeemer will say: "Amen, Amen, I know you not: you are not my work, no longer do see in you what I put there. You have chosen to form yourself in your own way: you are the work of pleasure and ambition: you are the work of the devil, whose works you have done, and whom, by taking him as your model, you have made your father. Go with him who knows you, and whose promptings you have followed; go to fire eternal which has been prepared for him. O just Judge! And where shall I be found? Shall I acknowledge myself, when my Creator has disowned me?" (Meditations sur l'Evangile. Thirty-ninth day.)

It is in this sense that we must interpret this Sunday's Gospel, one of the last of the ecclesiastical year and in which the Church reminds us of the end of the world. Thus the Epistle twice speaks of the coming of Christ as nigh at hand. St. Paul prays that " He who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus," since the grace of final perseverance comes from Him alone. Again the apostle asks that our "charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding"; that we "may approve the better things"; that we "may be sincere and without offense unto the day of Christ " (Epistle). For in this dread moment: If the Lord "shall observe iniquities ... who shall endure it?" (Introit).

But the Lord is the "helper and protector" of them that hope in Him. (Alleluia), for there is propitiation with the God of Israel (Introit, Secret). And we shall ourselves experience this mercy if we are merciful to our neighbour. " How good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," says the Gradual. Especially must we be found in prayer in the hour of danger, for if we cry to the Lord, He will hear us. (Communion).

The prayer, in the highest degree social and fraternal, to which almighty God is especially attentive is the prayer of His bride the Church. He hears and answers her, like Assuerus the king, when as the Offertory reminds us, Esther his wife approached him that he might save God's people from death" (See the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost).

Si iniquitátes observáveris, Dómine: Dómine, quis sustinébit? quia apud te propitiátio est, Deus Israël. * De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam.
If Thou shalt observe iniquities, O Lord, who shall endure it? for with Thee is propitiation, O God of Israel. * Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.
(Psalm 129:3-4,1-2 from the Introit of Mass).

Deus, refúgium nostrum et virtus: adésto piis Ecclésiae tuae précibus, auctor ipse pietátis, et praesta; ut, quod fidéliter pétimus, efficáciter consequámur.

O God, our refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness; hear, we pray Thee, the devout prayers of Thy Church, and grant that what we ask confidently we may obtain effectually.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time, the Pharisees went and consulted among themselves, how to ensnare Jesus in His speech. And they send to Him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that Thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man, for Thou dost not regard the person of the men. Tell us therefore, what dost Thou think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt Me, ye hypocrites ? Show Me the coin of the tribute. And they offered Him a penny. And Jesus saith to them : Whose image and superscription is this? They say to Him : Caesar's. Then He saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the to God the things that are God's.
(St Matthew 22:15-21)

Ego clamavi, quoniam exaudisti me, Deus: inclina aurem tuam, et exaudi verba mea.
I have cried for Thou, O God, hast heard me: O incline Thy ear unto me, and hear my words.
(Communion, from Psalm 16:6)

Reddite ergo * quae sunt Caesaris, Caesari: et quae sunt Dei, Deo, alleluia.
Render therefore to Caesar, the things that are Caesar's and to God, the things that are God's, alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat, from St. Matt. 22:21)

Sunday 14 October 2018

21st Sunday after Pentecost

21st Sunday after Pentecost

The lessons in the divine office for this Sunday are often taken from the Book of Machabees.

As St. John Chrysostom says: "Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, having invaded Judea and ravaged wholesale, forcing many Jews to give up the holy practices of their fathers, the Machabees remained steadfast and uncorrupted, amidst all these trials. Traversing the whole country they gathered together all the faithful and loyal citizens whom they met, and even a great number of those who had allowed themselves to be discouraged or led astray, urging them to return to the law of their fathers.

For they remembered that almighty God is full of indulgence and mercy, never refusing to repentance the gift of salvation.

These exhortations resulted in the raising of an army composed of men of the utmost bravery who were fighting not so much for their wives and children and servants; not to ward off slavery and ruin from their country, but for the laws of their fathers and the rights of their nation. God Himself was their leader. Moreover, when they went into battle to sacrifice their lives, this alone was enough to put the enemy to rout; in fact they trusted less in their arms than in the cause for which they had armed, which they considered sufficient to secure victory even if armour were altogether lacking. When on the march, they did not, like the people of some races, fill the air either with curses or profane songs; no flute players were to be found among them as in other camps; but they prayed God to send them aid from on high, to help and keep them, and to give them His strength, since they made war for His sake and not for their own glory" (Fourth Sunday in October, 2nd Nocturn).

God's primary care in the world is for His own people, i.e. Christ and His Church who together make only one. Everything else is of secondary importance. "Lord," says the Gradual, "Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation." While the Alleluia psalm relates that "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people, Judea was made His sanctuary," and "Israel His dominion". And then having recounted all the wonders wrought by God for the preservation of His people, the psalmist adds: "But our God is in heaven: He hath done all things whatsoever He would ... The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: He is their helper and protector."

The psalm, from which the Communion and the verse of the Introit are borrowed, repeat the cry of hope raised by just souls to heaven. "My soul is in Thy salvation ... When wilt thou execute justice on them that persecute me? The wicked have persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God."

In the same sense the Church prays in to-day's Collect: "Lord, we pray Thee, keep Thy household the Church in continual godliness ; that through Thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to good works, to the glory of Thy holy name."

The ancient people of God and His people to-day, have the same end in view, to glorify God and to assert His rights ; and both have the same adversaries, the devil and his agents. To-day the Church draws on the breviary lessons of the preceding Sundays, reminding us of Satan's onslaught upon Job and the treatment of Mardochai by Aman who was "a slanderer like the devil" (See Introit psalm). God delivered these two just men, as He freed His people from the bondage of Egypt, and as He came to the aid of the Machabees who were fighting in His cause.

In the same way Christians are attacked by evil spirits, for the persecutors of the Church, like those of Israel under the Old Law, are really stirred up by the devil. "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places" (Epistle). Moreover, like the Machabees, who, valiant soldiers as they were, trusted more in God than in their arms, the means of defense used by Christians must be chiefly of a supernatural kind. "Be strengthened in the Lord," says the apostle, " and in the midst of His power ... Take unto you the armour of God ... that you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one."

St. Paul's Roman guards (and the Machabees were accoutred like them) here serve the apostle as a model for the detailed description which he gives us of the mystic panoply of the soldiers of Christ. Its defensive armour consists of justice, peace and faith, while its weapons of offence are the inspired words of the Holy Ghost whom the Church received at Pentecost.

Now that portion of the divine Word which we have in to-day's Gospel sums up the whole Christian life in the practice of that virtue of charity which makes us treat our neighbour as almighty God has treated us. He has forgiven us great sins; let us in turn, learn how to forgive our brethren their infinitely less important offenses against us. The devil in his jealousy drives men to act like the wicked servant who seized by the throat one who owed him a trifling sum and cast him into prison because he could not pay at once. In the day of Judgment God will treat us as we have treated our neighbour. Of that day this Sunday's Mass warns us in our Lord's words: "The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who would take account of his servants." At that time of justice pure and simple, He will be merciless like us if, during this life when He is all mercy to us, we have not learned to be merciful like Him. The wicked servant was delivered to the torturers. "So," says our Lord, "shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts."

The executioners to whom we shall be delivered by our Lord in His just anger against us, will be the powers of hell from whom He has protected us on earth, but whom He will then leave to indulge their hatred against us. It is enough to recall their rage against holy Job. Let us be on our guard against them, the more so, that this Sunday reminds us of the time when the devils will use their power against men with greater violence, since they will soon lose it altogether.

If we seek strength from God, whose will none can resist (Introit), we shall be victorious over the devils even in those troublous times, and we shall have no fear of the judgment to come.

In voluntáte tua, Dómine, univérsa sunt pósita, et non est, qui possit resístere voluntáti tuae: tu enim fecísti ómnia, coelum et terram et univérsa, quae coeli ámbitu continéntur: Dominus universórum tu es. * Beáti immaculáti in via: qui ámbulant in lege Dómini.
All things are in Thy will, O Lord; and there is none that can resist Thy will: for Thou hast made all things, heaven and earth, and all things that are under the cope of heaven: Thou art the Lord of all. * Blessed are the undefiled in the way; who walk in the law of the Lord.
(Esther 13:9-11 and Psalm 118:1 from the Introit of Mass).

Famíliam tuam, quaesumus, Dómine, contínua pietáte custódi: ut a cunctis adversitátibus, te protegénte, sit libera, et in bonis áctibus tuo nómini sit devóta.
Lord, we pray Thee, keep Thy household in continual godliness; that through Thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to good works, to the glory of Thy holy name.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents: and as he has not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that servant falling down, besought him saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, let him go, and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow-servants that owed him a hundred pence: and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow-servant falling down besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison till he paid the debt. Now his fellow-servants, seeing what was done, were very much grieved; and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him, and saith to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me; shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
(St Matthew 18:23-35)

Immortalitatis alimoniam consecuti, quaesumus, Domine: ut, quod ore percepimus, pura mente sectemur.
Having been fed with the food of immortality, O Lord: we beseech Thee, that what we have received with our mouth, we may follow with a pure mind.

Serve nequam, omne debitum dimisi tibi, quoniam rogasti me: nonne ergo oportuit et te misereri conservi tui, sicut et ego tui misertus sum? alleluia.
Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt because thou besoughtest me: shouldst thou not then have had compassion also on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee? alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: St Matthew 18:32)

Sunday 7 October 2018

20th Sunday after Pentecost

20th Sunday after Pentecost

The lessons in the divine office during the whole month of October, are often taken from the books of Machabees.

After the Babylonian captivity God's people returned to Jerusalem where they rebuilt the Temple. Incidentally, it was at this time that today's Offertory psalm was composed. But soon they were once more punished because of renewed unfaithfulness. On this occasion Antiochus Epiphanes took Jerusalem and pillaged the Temple; afterwards publishing an edict everywhere forbidding the practice of the Jewish faith. Idolatrous altars were raised in every place, and the number of apostates became so great that it seemed as if the faith of Abraham, Israel and Moses must disappear.

Then God raised up some heroes. A priest named Mathathias rallied all who were still filled with zeal for the Law and the worship of the Covenant and named his son Judas Machabeus as leader of the force which he had raised to champion the rights of the true God; and with his tiny army Judas gladly fought the battles of Israel. In war he was "like a lion and like a lion's welp roaring for his prey." He wiped out "the wicked", and routed Antiochus' great army and re-established the true worship at Jerusalem, Filled with the Spirit of God, the Machabees had reconquered their country and saved the soul of their people.

"The sacrilegious superstitions of the Gentile world," says St. Augustine, "had filled the temple with defilement; but is was cleansed from all these profanations of idolatry by that most valiant captain Judas Machabeus, the conqueror of the generals of Antiochus" (Second Sunday in October, second Nocturn).

Again, St. Ambrose comments: "Some men have been captivated by the glory of arms, and rate courage in warfare above all else. But not of this kind was the valour of Josue, who, in a single battle, took six kings prisoners. With three hundred men Gedeon triumphed over a powerful army. Jonathas, while still a boy, distinguished himself by some fine feats of arms.

And what shall we say of the Machabees? With three thousand Jews they conquered forty-eight thousand Syrians! We can form some idea of the mettle of a captain like Judas Machabeus, from the action of one of his soldiers. This man, Eleazar, having noticed an elephant taller than the rest and covered with the royal body-cloth, concluding that it was ...